First name:
Marthe Adélaïde
20th century
Field of expertise:
Place of birth:
* 01.01.1901
† 12.10.1988
Biography print


French psychiatrist, prisoner doctor at Auschwitz concentration camp


Marthe Adélaïde (‘Heidi’) Haas-Hautval (1906–1988) was born in the Alsatian commune of Le Hohwald/Hohwald as the youngest of the seven children of Philippe Jacques Haas (1862–1935), a Protestant minister, and his wife, Sophie Lydia Kuntz (1870–1942), the daughter of a hotel owner (Sauquet 2000).


Since her native region then was part of the German Empire, she first attended a German-language primary school. When Alsace-Lorraine was returned to France after World War I, her family adopted the French surname “Hautval” (in reference to their place of residence). After graduating from a French-language lycée in Guebwiller, Adélaïde Hautval studied medicine at the University of Strasbourg, trained in psychiatry, and became an assistant to the psychiatrist Charles Pfersdorf (1876–1953). She received her doctorate in psychiatry in 1933 (Haas-Hautval 1933; Klee 2013: 166). Together with her brother Philippe Emmanuel Hautvald, she founded “Les Hirondelles” (Swallow’s Nest), a home for disadvantaged children, where she worked until 1936. She then went to work in Küssnacht, Switzerland, until 1939. When the northern part of France was occupied by Nazi Germany in 1940, she found employment at a psychiatric clinic in the Vichy territory, the unoccupied southern zone.


In April 1942, she illegally tried to cross the demarcation line between the Vichy zone and the Nazi-occupied part of France to see her dying mother but was arrested and taken into custody together with a number of Jewish captives. Witnessing the harsh treatment of a Jewish family, she protested and argued that Jews were human beings like anybody else and should not be bothered (Commire 2000: 72). As a result of this, she was detained at the local prison in Bourges. To show her solidarity with her Jewish fellow inmates, she wore a self-made yellow badge, repeatedly spoke out in defense of Jewish prisoners, and criticized that they were subjected to a treatment worse than that of non-Jewish detainees. The Gestapo suggested that if she chose to defend Jews, she was welcome to share their fate, (Hautval 1946a; Commire 2000: 72) and sent her through several transit camps for Jewish deportees (Pithviers, Beaune-la-Rolande, and Romainville internment camps).


Prisoner doctor at Auschwitz concentration camp

On 24 January 1943, she was deported to Auschwitz concentration camp as an “enemy of the Reich” under the so-called Night and Fog directive (Białówna 1995: 174). She had to wear the yellow badge and an armband reading “friend of the Jews” and received the inmate number 31802 (Hautval 1964: 39). Being a physician, she initially had to care for the sick at Auschwitz II (Birkenau) but was later assigned to Block 10, a strictly isolated cellblock within the premises of the main camp Auschwitz I, where inmates were used as experimental subjects (Hautval 1966; Lang 2016: 324). From April 1943, Block 10 prisoners were at the disposal of the SS doctor and gynecologist Carl Clauberg (1898–1957) for his sterilization experiments (Benedict & Georges 2005: 282; Weinberger 2009) and of Chief SS doctor Eduard Wirths (1909–1945), who studied cervical cancer and performed surgery on female inmates (Georges & Benedict 2006: 163).


When Hautval was assigned to assist Clauberg in performing forced sterilizations through the use of x-rays or ovariectomy, she refused to play a part in these experiments, arguing that no one had the right to determine the lives and fates of other human beings (Hautval 1946b; Lorska 1965/1995: 212; Langbein 1980: 344; Haag 1998: 198f.; Hautval in Klee 2013: 430). In this way, she was able to save some patients from the sometimes life-threatening procedures (Salomon 1946). Asked by chief doctor Eduard Wirths to practice gynecology, she initially agreed (Hautval 1964: 40); but when seeing what this work was all about, she declared that she did not wish to perform colposcopic examinations on Wirths’ behalf and take tissue samples from the cervix of the detained women (Hautval 1948). These samples were intended for a series of tests for the early detection of uterine cancer, carried out by Wirths’ brother, the gynecologist Helmut Wirths (born 1912) (cf. Wirths 1962; Lang 2011: 144–146; Hübner 2016).


Hautval similarly refused to assist as an anesthetist in surgeries performed by prisoner doctor Maximilian Samuel (1880–1943) (Lorska 1965/1995: 212). When she also refused the order to assist the infamous physician and anthropologist Josef Mengele (1911–1979) in his medical experiments, she was transferred back to Auschwitz II (Lang 2016: 324). There she survived typhoid fever and, in August 1944, was transferred to Ravensbrück concentration camp where she remained until the camp was liberated by the Soviet Red Army on 30 April 1945 (Langbein 1980: 264f.; Aitken & Aitken 2007: 286 f.).


Post-war life

After her liberation, Hautval stayed at Ravensbrück together with other doctors and nurses to care for those inmates who were too sick to be transported to other facilities (Hervé & Unterhinninghofen 2008: 280). She finally returned to France in late June of 1945. She started writing down her concentration camp experiences in 1946, however, without publishing her writings (Hautval 1946a). She worked as a school doctor, first in Besançon and then in a Paris suburb. In 1961, she protested against the use of torture in the Algerian War and police repression in Paris (Hervé 2003).



Hautval lived with her partner until the latter’s death and took her own life on 12 October 1988, at the age of 82, when the first signs of her Parkinson’s disease became apparent. In the last year of her life, she revised her memories of imprisonment at the camps and her post-liberation reflections and entrusted her writings to friends. Her work titled Médecine et crimes contre l’humanité (Medicine and Crimes Against Humanity) was first published in French in 1991, three years after her death.


Contemporary witness and honors

In December 1945, Hautval was awarded the Knight Order of the French Legion of Honor. In April and May of 1964, she testified against the surgeon and prisoner doctor Władysław Alexander Dering (1903–1965) in what has been described the first “Auschwitz trial” held in Britain (cf. transcript of court proceedings in Hautval 1964: 37–53). Dering, who had assisted camp doctor Horst Schumann (1906–1983) in performing sterilization experiments on inmates, claimed that he had reason to fear for his life if he did not comply. The testimonies given by Hautval and Dorota Lorska (1913–1965), another doctor who had refused such orders, showed that refusing to participate in medically non-indicated surgeries did not entail serious consequences (Hautval 1946: 50; Aitken & Aitken 2007: 268). Hautval was a key witness at the London trial, as her testimony cast the defendant’s argumentation in a highly dubious light. The judge presiding over the trial, Sir Frederick H. Lawton (1911–2011), later described her as “perhaps one of the most impressive and courageous women who have ever given evidence in the courts of this country” (Hill 1965: 255).


In April 1965, she was honored by the Holocaust Remembrance Center Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations. In her reception address, she remarked that this honor first and foremost belonged to God, not to mortals like her. However, she later wanted to return the award out of outrage when Israeli soldiers stood idly by during a massacre of Palestinians at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in September 1882 during the Lebanon conflict (Hervé 2003).


Hautval explained her behavior at the Nazi concentration camps as follows: “What I did was perfectly natural, logical, and derived from a moral obligation” (Haag 1998: 74; translated from German). At the same time, she remained modest and remarked that she had “other sides to her, too” (Langbein 1980: 345; translated from German). A fountain with a memorial stone (“Fontaine Haïdi Hautval”) was erected in Le Hohwald, her birthplace, in 1991.


Ethical positions

Doctor Hautval was no resistant fighter in the strict sense, but she showed a considerable amount of civil courage. The Polish physician Slavka Kleinova (born 1914) reported that it had been Adélaide Hautval who, in the first days after Kleinova’s arrival at Block 10, informed her about the activities of the SS doctors and inculcated in her that everyone had to behave as a human being towards their fellow inmates, especially in the face of imminent death. To her, Hautval’s ethical attitude had become the “epitome of the conscientious doctor” (Lang 2011: 149; translated from German). According to Lorska, Hautval had acted on the grounds of ethics and humanity in many situations and therefore was her “role model of a doctor in its noblest guise” (Lorska 1965/1995: 212) – an example that made it clear that even in Auschwitz it had been possible to resist inhumane orders.


Hautval’s authentical report Medicine Against Humanity, written in a matter-of-fact, almost detached manner, is of great relevance still today. It includes observations about Germany during and immediately after the Nazi era and reveals her horror at common explanations of not having known about “all this”: “An entire nation that seems to consist only of non-responsible individuals, starting with those who are deemed to be the conscience of a people” (Hautval 2008: 10; translated from German). Marthe Adélaïde Hautval’s statements strongly encourage a critical examination of German history and the typical patterns of justification during the post-war period.



1945: Knight of the French Legion of Honor

18 May 1965: Yad Vashem, Righteous Among the Nations.



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(1) Hautval, A. (1946a): Memoirs of Adélaïde Hautval. Yad Vashem Archive, O33 / 2250.

(2) Hautval, A. (1946b): Bericht Experimente betreffend, die im Block 10 im Konzentrationslager von Auschwitz gemacht wurden. Bundesarchiv Berlin, NS 19/1583, Js 3484/55 Verf. gegen Carl Clauberg.

(3) Hautval, A. (1948): Aussagen. Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv Wiesbaden, Abt. 631a, Nr. 556 Verf. gegen Georg Renno.

(4) Hautval, A. (1964): Testimony by Dr. Adélaïde Hautval, Uris v. Dering Trial, 1964, Harry Ransom Research Library, University of Texas, Austin.

(5) Hautval, A. (1966): Testimony by Dr. Adélaïde Hautval, taken on tape-recorder by Madame Hollander and transcribed by Génia Schweizer. Yad Vashem Archive, 03 / 2963.

(6) Salomon J. (1946): Eidesstattliche Erklärung Jeanne I. Salomon, Luxemburg, 10/09/1946. Institut für Zeitgeschichte München, NO-810.

(7) Sauquet E. (2000): Le Hohwald Liste détaillée d’individus N/M/D 1867–1892. URL: [last access on 08/29/2017].

(8) Wirths H. (1962): Aussage Helmut Wirths 04/1962. Fritz-Bauer-Institut, Sammlung Auschwitz Prozesse, Verfahren 4, Js 444/59 Bd. 64.


Felicitas Söhner


Referencing format
Felicitas Söhner: Haas-Hautval, Marthe Adélaïde .
In: Biographisches Archiv der Psychiatrie.
(retrieved on:22.02.2024)